Here is an industry insight on bioplastics from Jim Lunt of Jim Lunt and Associates, LLC. We asked his opinions on the industry’s performance in 2010 and his perspectives on the trends for 2011.
2010 was a pivotal growth year for bioplastics after the economy-induced flat period of 2009. Several prominent studies projected almost 40% growth in 2010 for the major players. Although I believe these figures to be generally very optimistic, there is little doubt that products such as PLA, starch blends and cellulosics overall did see approximate sales increases of 14% to 20%.
The start up of Braskem’s bio HDPE plant indicates the acceleration of a predicted expansion of bioplastics into the durable products arena. Continuing advancements of earlier non-compostable biobased products such as Nylon 11, derived from castor oil, plus a range of partially biobased polyamides and polyesters such as biobased PET and PTT, indicates that the transition from an almost single-minded focus on compostable disposable products to a market ultimately dominated by renewable resource containing durable products, is well on its way.
Another significant trend observed in 2010 was an increased synergy between the biofuels and bioplastics initiatives:
- Bio ethanol, which has primarily been focused on the fuel market, is now a key building block for bioderived polyethylene and for biobased monomers such as ethylene glycol – used in PET for the so called “Plant Bottle” launched by Coca Cola.
- Bio butanol, which is approaching commercialization for fuels, is also being adopted as a chemical building block for materials such as butyl rubber, acrylics and potentially terephthalic acid (TPA).
- Even in the biodiesel field we see the accompanying development of materials such as soy-based polyols for urethanes. Finally, with the increasing interest in Algae as a potential next generation fuel, we see emerging leaders in this field already looking for opportunities to penetrate the renewable chemicals and plastics markets.
It seems that almost every month we see initiatives in providing new or existing monomer “building blocks” from renewable resources for a wide range of plastics. We will observe an increase in existing and new performance plastics being produced either partially or completely from renewable resources.
The use of non-food-based feed stocks, primarily from ligno cellulosics such as wood pulp will approach commercial reality. And finally, as countries such as Thailand, China and India become recognized as central supply and manufacturing locations we will see increasing globalization for both compostable and durable renewable sourced bioplastics. 2011 will be a fascinating year as we witness key players emerging to drive these transitions.
I am excited to be a part of this evolving industry and hope to continue my contribution at the upcoming conference I will be chairing in Las Vegas, February 01-03, 2011. This conference entitled “Bioplastics Reshaping an Industry” is focused on the trends, technologies and companies who are shaping and driving the transitions we have discussed.
Source: theenenergycollective, 2010-01-05.